CIDERY STARTS BREWING IN ILWACO

When Fortune & Glory Cider Co. in downtown Astoria went out of business in early January, craft cider devotees were bereft.

Fortune & Glory was the only cidery on the North Coast. 

Despite that exclusive status and the support of its landlord, Fort George Brewery, the owners pulled the plug after agonizing over shrinking profit margins.

The couple behind Ilwaco Cider Co. wasn’t deterred. As Fortune & Glory closed, they moved forward with ambitious plans aimed at filling the void.

This week, Vinessa and Jarrod Karnofski started brewing their first hard ciders in Ilwaco on the scenic Long Beach peninsula. 

Vinessa, the head cider maker, could have played it safe, starting with a few basic fruit flavors. Instead, she went bold with a wide-ranging initial foursome that showcases her culinary training. 

In a few weeks, get ready for Solitary Euphoria, described as dry and effervescent with elderberry and grapefruit; Fisherman’s Flannel, semi-dry with notes of ginger, peppercorn, cinnamon and allspice; Columbia Fog, with Oolong tea, lavender, and vanilla and orange blossom honey; and Springrider Cran, with local late-harvest cranberries, lime and wildflower honey.

A recent visit to the cidery at 116 Spruce St. E found the gleaming 30-barrel fermentation and bright tanks in place and plumbed, a large walk-in cooler at the ready and dozens of empty kegs waiting to be filled. A mobile canning company is standing by.

“We’re just ecstatic,” Vinessa says.

Ilwaco Cider has plenty of room to expand.

While the first phase is to make the four core hard ciders and self-distribute locally, the building – which has had different lives as a furniture store, fitness center, antique shop and mini storage facility – has plenty of room for a planned 30-seat taproom. 

The goal is to open a. modest tasting room this summer. A roll-up, glass-paned garage door, a favorite of brewpubs, is already installed. 

By spring 2025, the couple intends to unveil a full, family-friendly taproom, with a food menu and on-the-premises kitchen.

The Karnofskis bought the building, a large showroom in front with long rows of storage units behind, in 2018. The pandemic slowed the transition, but a year ago the build-out started in earnest.

“A lot of sweat equity,” Jarrod says. “A lot.”

The Karnofksis showing off their logo: an apple tree sprouting from an anchor.

The Karnofskis take pride in being part of a business revival in the small town that has been gathering steam in recent years.

Vinessa, who attended Western Culinary Institute in Portland, studied both business and cider-making. She later worked as a chef, learning plenty about flavor combinations. For years, she’s been dabbling with homemade cider, learning the craft.

“I needed to find something in line with my passion, which is cooking. Something where I could be creative, but didn’t have the same hours like a restaurant,” Vinessa says. “I don’t want to be working until 10 p.m. … It’s just not good family hours.”

She’ll now be the cider maker and sales/marketing director.

Jarrod, a physical therapist and trainer who helps oversee Columbia Memorial Hospital support services, grew up in Ilwaco. Through Ilwaco Cider, he hopes to inject more vitality in the historic port town, including some nightlife.

The couple was told that nearly a million people drive through Ilwaco every year just to get to Cape Disappointment. Their hope is to get a fraction of those visitors to drop in at their roadside oasis.

The business is starting with a brewhouse purchased from the former 12 Bridge Ciderworks in Oregon City. Each tank is emblazoned with the names of popular movie and TV characters, like The Dude and McGyver. Jarrod and Vinessa thought it was funny. The names are staying for now.

The fermentation process takes three to four weeks. Batches can be flavored up front or at the end with juice, hops, berries or herbs.

“You can get really creative with it,” Vinessa says.

Phase one will be to self-distribute on the peninsula with cans and kegs.

Ilwaco Cider intends to feature real fruit, with no additives, fake flavoring or preservatives. Farm-fresh ingredients from the Pacific Northwest will be showcased whenever possible.

Some of the fruit will be delivered directly to the cidery, where it will be pressed into juice. 

The Karnofskis have been busy meeting with area farmers, arranging for regular deliveries of fresh fruit. One of those providers will be Cruel Mistress Cranberries, Vinessa says.

“The community feedback has been amazing,” she says.

Adds Jarrod with a smile: “A lot of local excitement.”

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